Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Future of Starbucks

Howard Schultz recently retired as the CEO and President, of Starbucks, the coffee producer and distributer in Seattle. For nearly thirty years Schultz led Starbucks’ growth from a small chain of coffee shop in the Pacific northwest to an international corporate behemoth with more than 28,000 shops in 77 countries producing net revenues of $22.4 billion in 2017.

Bryant Simon observed in his book “Everything But the Coffee”, that Starbucks customers believed because of their grande lattes—that they were “cooler, richer, and more sophisticated” than non-Starbucks coffee drinkers.  As long “as Starbucks customers could get all of this for the price of a cut of coffee, even an inflated one, they eagerly handed over their money, three and four dollars at a clip.”

One might think that Schultz’ successor to this empire would be facing a “slam-dunk” future in the coffee business, but one would be wrong. Today, Starbucks faces declining sales, a problem with social issues in many locations, and difficult choices in planning the opening of new locations and closing existing, under-producing stores.  Starbucks must find ways to continue to satisfy its legacy customers while also developing new product offerings to attract new customers into its 28,00 stores world-wide.

As I listened to this story, I thought of the Episcopal Church. A long-time successful “brand” in the Christian Church marketplace, the Episcopal Church struggles to continue to offer the style of worship that appeals to its legacy member base, and to attract new, young congregants to its wide network of churches. In addition, too many churches were built in areas that are no longer supportive of their multi-church presence. Arlington (Fla) is a good example with five or more Episcopal churches located in a five-mile radius.

Unlike Starbucks, however, the Episcopal Church has a superior CEO and President who always has a plan for his church. It doesn’t take much to see that God is firmly in control of God’s church and will never let it fail if we continue in our mission to bring all people into discipleship of Jesus Christ.

We may change—shrink and expand—but failure is not an option.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Thoughts from Your Rector

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church has come under criticism recently for not using the pulpit to speak to (or protest) current political actions in our world. Lately, we have seen a rash of activity from the leadership of the empire that many consider racist, homophobic, xenophobic, bigoted, and morally bankrupt. Often these policies and behavior come from leaders who count themselves as good Christians or Jews or Muslims or other religious types.

If I have chosen not to directly confront Evangelical Conservatives or their arch opponents, Progressive Christians, who clutter our airwaves with sound bites and Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, it is because I believe there is a better way.

Kings come, and Kings go. Presidents are elected, and Presidents are defeated. Senators and Representatives and lobbyists and captains of industry all have their day in the sun, yet we cannot as Christians stake our future and wisdom on the opposition to any particular party or leader.

Our leader, the source of all wisdom, love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness (and many other good things) is Jesus Christ. We cannot be the voice of Progressive Christians or Evangelical Christians or Left Wing or Right Wing or Moderate Wing or even the voice for America.

Our voices, whether timid and feeble or strong and clear must remain rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ or we become nothing more than the religious arm of the current political party in protest. We must draw our strength from the teachings of Jesus, the iconoclastic and spiritual leader who started a lasting movement based upon love. This was his message, not the overthrow of the Roman Empire but the building up of the Kingdom God.

This is our message; love God with all that we have, and love of neighbor as we love ourselves.

Peace,  Father Mark